How to Respond to Thumb Sucking

Depending on which type of parent you are, there may or may not be an appropriate age for thumb sucking. So whether you're trying to break the habit, or preventing it from starting at all, this is how you can respond to your child's thumb sucking.


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    Introduce the concept - This step depends on if your child is able to talk yet. Go to step 2 if he/she can, 3 if he/she can't.
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    Talk about it with them. If your child can speak, this may be somewhat of an advantage. The mere fact that you can communicate to your child can give the child a better understanding of why. Because usually when approaching your child, the first thing they'll ask is "why?" If they have been doing it all their lives, they'll need a reason to stop. If you haven't come up with a reason yourself, I have come up with a few for you.
    • Reason 1 - School. There gets to be an age where if you still suck your thumb, people are going to pick on you. You can find yourself sucking your thumb until you are 8 years old (or more), and people won't respond very well to you having a thumb in your mouth all the time.
    • Reason 2 - Germs. Your child, depending on age, may not understand this concept just yet, but if he does, tell him he will get sick if he doesn't stop. The truth is everywhere on your finger, especially under the thumbnail, is coated with viruses and bacteria. They don't stress the importance of washing your hands for nothing. And, as a child, they may not wash their hands as often as they should (or at all). So having them stop sucking their thumb is crucial for their health, and the health of others.
    • Reason 3 - Teeth. Your front teeth are at risk when you suck your thumb as well. This is gradual, but if your child sucks his/her thumb enough, especially when new adult teeth are growing in, they will jut out. Not only will this look bad, but it means braces. And braces will be painful, costly, and annoying.
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    Decide what to do. There are many pros and cons to the task of stopping your child from starting, but if you cannot communicate with them is a major con right there. You have to introduce the concept of not sucking their thumb by actions. This is a common mistake parents make. Don't introduce the pacifier as a replacement. This may temporarily solve the problem, but then the issue of pacifier sucking is introduced. By doing this you are just doing more work for yourself because now you'll have to break the pacifier habit as well as the thumb sucking one. Repetition is the key for this one. Whenever you see your child sucking their thumb, take it out. Sound too simple? If you remember to do it all the time your child will begin to recognize that they cannot suck their thumb. Also try a glove or band-aid around their thumb. Obviously as a child they may take it off, but little reminders such as this are good ways of helping your child to stop.
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    Keep working on it. Maybe introducing the concept is all you need to do to stop your child from sucking their thumb. But most likely it won't. Every child is different, but here are the things that you can and cannot do to make your child stop. First of all, don't nag or pressure them. It may be tempting, but like everything, stopping the sucking is a process. It requires patience on both ends. Second of all, if you've told them why you want them to stop, ask them why they want to continue. Obviously if they can't speak yet it is hard to tell, but let their voice be heard. If they have no response then they themselves don't know why, and it may just be the fact their used to doing it. If there is a reason, help address it. Remember quitting is a joint effort. Let them know that. Tell them you are there for them and will meet them halfway. Promises such as this encourage your child and give them support. But make sure to remember not to replace this habit with another. Don't give them the pacifier, make them suck on a blanket, etc. because this will only make the problem worse.
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    Keep trying. If you are still having trouble with this, talk to a professional. Thumb sucking is often a way of dealing with nervousness or anxiety. Remember patience is a virtue, and every child is different. Reward your child as apposed to punishing them. Talk to them, and help them out. Together, your child can quit.


  • This is a joint effort. You must meet them halfway and let them know you are there for support.
  • Give your child support and reward them as apposed to punishing them.
  • Getting support from others can help your child even further. You can get it from family, teachers, close friends, or even brothers and sisters.
  • Try a positive learning tool such as "thumb buddy To Love". You can get it at some dentist offices or Google it.
  • Don't replace one bad habit with another.
  • Remember quitting is a process. Don't rush it, and don't nag your child to quit.
  • Make sure you and your child have an understanding. Talk to them. Let your child be heard.


  • Thumb sucking can cause illness, sores, and dental problems.

Article Info

Categories: Behavioral Issues | Development Stages